Finnish law to stop migrants at Russia border makes progress in parliament

Finland readies to bar new migrant route via Russia to Europe

HELSINKI (Reuters) -Finland's parliament will be able to accept a government proposal to temporarily reject asylum seekers arriving across the border from Russia if some amendments are made, an influential committee of legislators said on Tuesday.

The announcement by the chair of parliament's constitutional committee is expected to pave the way for the controversial proposal to be approved in a plenary vote in due course.

Finland has accused Russia of weaponising migration by encouraging hundreds of asylum seekers last year from countries such as Syria and Somalia to cross the border, an assertion the Kremlin denies.

Helsinki believes Moscow is promoting the crossings in retaliation for Finland joining NATO, which backs Ukraine against Russia's invasion.

After first shutting all land border crossings with Russia late last year, preventing regular travel, the Finnish government in May presented legislation allowing border guards to stop migrants still arriving from seeking asylum.

While the plan clearly contradicts principles included in international human rights agreements, it is still justified as a temporary emergency measure under the circumstances, committee chair Heikki Vestman told a press conference.

For the legislation to pass it must be accompanied by a procedure giving those who are rejected a possibility to appeal the decision, said Vestman, who belongs to the ruling National Coalition Party.

No migrants have arrived across the border with Russia since March 13, official data shows.

Before the vote, the committee heard 18 experts, who were all against approving the law.

But in the end, 15 of the 17 parliamentarians on the constitutional committee gave their backing, with only the Left Alliance and Green Party representatives objecting.

"For the first time the Finnish state explicitly ignores the human rights system and European Union legislation," Left Alliance lawmaker Anna Kontula said, adding that this could set a dangerous precedent.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto and Anne Kauranen, editing by Terje Solsvik and Gareth Jones)